Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Girls with Aspergers Syndrome

Trying to remember a little about what Morgan was like when she was little. I have Beth Busby from D11 coming to my house to record me for a video she’s producing. She wants me to tell her a little about how the AS experience is different for girls.

I’ve long contended that AS isn’t nearly as scarce in girls as is thought—they just manifest the symptoms a little differently. One of the main things that makes people think girls don’t have Asperger's is that they want to play with others. It’s their method of play that gives you the clues. My girls have a much harder time progressing past “parallel play” (where the children play two different games side by side—common in toddlers) to shared play. I think this is because they have a hard time giving up control. When they do find that one friend who is sweet enough to indulge their need to be in control, they want to spend as much time as possible with them.

That leads us to the “wanting to play” part. This, I believe, is a common misconception about AS kids in general. I have yet to meet an Asperger's child who simply did NOT want to have friends (though I am aware that there are a few out there.) The kids are frequently happier playing by themselves, but that’s only because play with their peers frustrates them—not because they don’t want it. Imagine you love ice cream, but you’re lactose intolerant. You want it, you love it, but it gives you pain because there are aspects of it that you can’t handle. For Asperger's kids, playing with friends is like that. They love it, they want it, but because there are aspects of it that cause them pain, they can’t handle it. Sadly, some AS kids come to associate friendship with pain & decide they don’t want it anymore.

Third: Asperger's girls engage in imaginative play, so they must not have Asperger's. Girls with AS get out their dolls and ponies and dragons and dinosaurs and dance them around the floor of their room. But something is a little different. Sit down next to the AS girl, pick up the pony, and say, “no, I’m not going to do (what ever your child suggested.) I’m going to go to the park and eat mushrooms.” When you introduce a plot line that your autistic child didn’t write, the autistic child can’t change gears (like a neurotypical child would) and embrace the new plot. Sure, most kids are like that when they’re toddlers, but they grow out of it. It takes a lot longer for the AS child to.

One of the less commonly addressed issues of Asperger's is anxiety. Temple Grandin said that the most prevalent emotion the autistic child feels is anxiety. I believe that extreme anxiety in the very young girl is a sign of Asperger's. My oldest daughter had so much anxiety that she had to frequently leave her first grade classroom to calm down in the guidance counselors office. Eventually we filled a prescription bottle with tic-tacs, called it Aplacebo (a placebo) and told her she could go down to the office to get one whenever she felt overwhelmed. I may get criticism for “teaching a young child that meds are the answer to all her problems,” but I was addressing a greater issue—that my daughter was in constant fear and anxiety. The tic-tacs made her feel in control. Eventually (a few years later) we told her what was going on, and she realized that she was the one who was making herself feel better.

Well, this is enough for one day. I’ll blog more later.

1 comment:

  1. I like the ice cream analogy. Hope you get to mention that on the film.